Welcome back to the final stop on the Seven Prequels Blog Tour! Today I have the pleasure of profiling Webb’s story in Sigmund Brouwer’s “Barracuda”. My thanks to the wonderful people at Orca Books who so very kindly invited me to participate not once but twice on this tour (look for my first post last week that kicked off the tour with Norah McClintock’s “Slide”).
For those of you who might be wondering about the series, the Seven Prequels brings the original seven authors back together to write about their characters, but this time with a twist. Instead of the boys heading out on another grandfather-inspired adventure, it’s all about what happened before they first encountered each other for that mysterious reading of the will.
Fishing for barracuda from a kayak in the Florida Keys. That’s what Jim Webb thinks this resort vacation with his grandfather should be about. Except the dying resort owner holds the key to legend about a generations-old crime. A crime that is worth way too much to those who want the legend to be true.
Webb soon discovers that what lurks in the sun, sand and shallow waters of the Keys is much more dangerous than a slashing game fish. And along the way, he learns an important truth about himself and his own past.
In this exciting prequel to Devil’s Pass and Tin Soldier, the musically gifted and tenacious Webb finds himself caught in a dangerous mystery.
Jim Webb has remained one of my favourite characters of the seven. There’s a lot that has gone on in his life, and he is the poster child for “still waters running deep”. One of the best parts of this book for me was getting the chance to observe just how well Webb’s grandfather knew him, and how alike they seemed to be. David MacLean knows Webb incredibly well – even to the point where he can pinpoint why he doesn’t like school, and his calm faith in his grandson’s abilities gives Webb the extra confidence he needs at times to strike out on his own and to try new things. Webb has a genuine love and respect for David in this book, and it adds an extra poignancy for when you go back to read the original and sequel books in this series.
Knowing Webb as well as he does, his grandfather takes him away with him to the Florida Keys, ostensibly to help his grandfather to say goodbye to an old buddy, but really to help Webb to accept his own father’s passing. While his grandfather knows that things aren’t right with Webb at home, we see Webb’s resilience and independence in full force here as he deflects any and all attempts to talk about his home life – a telling statement for future books in the series, and beyond with Rock the Boat.
This is also the book where Webb’s re-ignited love affair with music begins again after the loss of his father. This is helped along in no small part by a beautiful girl with an awesome voice, who happens to be signing one of Webb’s (and my) favourite songs. As much as Webb is drawn in by the song, he’s also drawn in by the girl and his first serious crush. Alas, all is not what it seems, and he’s destined to have his crush left unrequited for a very good reason, but his connection to his guitar remains and helps to heal him at the end of the book.
There’s a LOT of action/adventure in this series – more than you might suspect, especially with the younger target readers, but I think that’s what really makes this whole series fly. I was totally fascinated by Webb’s experience fishing in a kayak, and the battle with the barracuda had me flying through the pages. Overall, I can say that I was really impressed with how Brouwer managed to show us another side of Webb, while remaining true to the character that we have come to know so well over three prior books.
The Seven Prequels is aimed at readers in Grades Four to Six, as the characters are younger than in the previous books. It’s a great intro point for new readers, and a quick read for those more experienced as they glean valuable back story information from these books. I can’t wait to recommend them in our library, as I know that they will be a hit with readers new and returning.
Sigmund Brouwer is the best- selling author of nearly thirty novels, with close to 4 million books in print. He has won the Christy Book of the Year and the Arthur Ellis award, as well as being nominated for two TD Children’s Literature Awards and the Red Maple Award.
Sigmund splits his time between Nashville, Tennessee, and Red Deer, Alberta, with his wife and two daughters.
He loves going to schools to get kids excited about reading, reaching roughly 80,000 students a year through his Rock&Roll Literacy Show.
Despite traffic jams, school visits, library obligations, downed IT and all manner of delays, Sigmund and I did manage to connect so that I might ask him a few questions regarding his book in the Seven Prequels series.
Thanks so much for chatting with me, Sigmund! Let’s start with how you felt heading back into the series again, and with Webb in particular.
I think Webb is one of my favourite characters ever, so I really enjoyed the chance to write more about him, and especially more about him when he was younger. I think we all as authors really liked the chance to show the relationship that each of our characters had with their grandfather, David MacLean, and just how well he was able to adapt himself to each grandchild’s particular needs.
It was also pretty great to go back and place all these extra clues to future scenes in the other books throughout our stories – Easter Eggs, if you like – that hint at things to come. If you are really keen, you will notice that David MacLean is reading a particular book that leads to a location in a future book … and that this kind of hint appears in some form in every one of the Prequels!
I have to ask – the scene with Webb in the kayak and the barracuda was pretty authentic, so was there some real-life experience mixed in with that?
There was, absolutely! In fact, I managed to catch a barracuda while kayak-fishing, just like Webb. I even caught a shark, but that’s a story for another day. My barracuda wasn’t as large as Webb’s, but I did manage to catch it on video.
Did you have the full back story played out for Webb before you wrote the first book? Was this an adventure that you had already envisioned for him?
I didn’t have a back story for Webb, but what I did have from the beginning was a character study. I knew from the beginning that Webb had a bad relationship with his step-father – an abusive one, really, and that was going to be a key feature. When I thought back on it, I began to wonder how twelve and thirteen-year old Webb might process living in that situation, and I began to realize that he was still angry with his Dad for dying and putting him in that situation. From there, I could really see how Webb’s story began to unfold.
What’s next for Webb? He’s got at least one more adventure in store with the sequel to Rock the Boat coming, called Billboard Express. Now that I think about it, I’d love to write more about him – I’ve gotten to know him so well, that I would like to think that there are more adventures in store for him. Let me get back to you on that one!
For me, the character study is the most important part. Once you know the character, the story kind of reveals itself over time, and it fits with the character that you have come to know so well.
After three full sets of books together, what are your thoughts on the collaborative writing process, and would you consider it again?
If it was these six writers? Absolutely, no question. Writing these books has been more fun and interesting than I could have ever imagined, and I would come back and write another series with them again.
With other writers? I’ll give you a tentative yes, because I’d like to think that I’d have the same experience as I’ve had with these guys, but there’s a small part of me that wonders if it will ever be as good as it has been with the Seven series. Sure, I’d love to collaborate with other writers, especially if it turns out as well as these series have developed.
Thanks, Sigmund! Barracuda and the other books in the Seven Prequels are available from Orca Books, and can be read in any order. Individual books and boxes sets are available for purchase from our favourite online, independent and chain booksellers. ISBN: 9781459811522